A class action lawsuit on behalf of crime victims in Nunavik, the Inuit region of northern Quebec, has got the go-ahead.
The lawsuit alleges that people in Nunavik have been left out of the province’s compensation regime for victims of criminal offenses.
Quebec Superior Court Judge Lukasz Granosik certified the class-action lawsuit on Dec. 1
The Indemnisation des victimes d’actes criminel, known by its French acronym IVAC, allows crime victims to apply for a range of compensation.
The compensation can cover anything from lost income related to the crime, to the costs of things like child care, medication or counselling services.
The lawsuit outlines that between 2013 and 2019, approximately 80,000 crimes against a person were committed in Quebec. Of those, approximately 7,000 people received compensation.
The lawsuit says that throughout the province, the number of victims receiving compensation in the various regions is proportional to their population, except for Nunavik.
Compensation “an objectively infinitesimal number and disproportionate to the provincial average”
In Nunavik, the lawsuit says 40,868 crimes against the person were reported and there were 86 compensation cases, when, if Nunavik had the same percentage as the rest of Quebec, 3,000 compensation cases would be expected.
“It is neither contested nor disputed that between 2013 and 2020, in Nunavik, the State has paid compensation in an objectively infinitesimal number and disproportionate to the provincial average in terms of the number of crimes against the person that have been reported in this territory,” the French-language Dec 1 judgment said.
“The plaintiff argues that this situation is a direct consequence of the lack of support and constitutes a fault that falls under the responsibility of government departments, regardless of their name, division or service.”
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Nunavik resident Raven Gordon-Kawapit.
Gordon-Kawapit was the victim of offenses against a person and participated in the court proceedings of each of her four attackers. All were found guilty.
But despite this, she said she was never told about IVAC.
“Despite her ongoing cooperation with the police and public authorities during the police investigations and criminal trials, the plaintiff was never informed of the compensation scheme,” the Dec 1 judgment said.
“It was only a few years later, in 2021, when she was considering suing her assailants in civil liability and consulted a private lawyer, that she was informed of the existence of the compensation regime.”
Eligibility starts from 1972 on
Those eligible for compensation for the purposes of the class action are victims of crimes against the person in Nunavik, from March 1, 1972, onwards who reported the crime to authorities but who were not supported by “the state and its representatives in order to benefit from the state compensation scheme provided for in the Crime Victims Compensation Act.”
The lawsuit is asking for $1,000 in moral damages for each eligible person and $10,000 in damages for infringement on their rights.
Write to Eilís Quinn at firstname.lastname@example.org
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Quebec Inuit org. calls lack of police, justice reform “ticking catastrophe in modern times”, Eye on the Arctic
Finland: Police response times up to an hour slower in Arctic Finland, Yle News
United States: Violence Against Women bill would expand power of up to 30 Alaska tribal courts, Alaska Public Media